Two of the men running for the Pennsylvania Senate Republican nomination, who often tout their backgrounds running a business, were critical Thursday of the attacks lobbed on Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital by other GOP presidential candidates.
Also Thursday, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue made similar critiques after his annual State of American Business address, calling the Romney barrage “foolish” and said it only provided future advertising material for the Democrats.
In the last week or so, opponents, namely Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, have come out swinging at Romney’s business failures while running Bain Capital. They’ve painted him as a heartless businessman willing to seize failing businesses and strip the workforce to make a buck.
Gingrich’s supporters made a 30-minute anti-Romney movie. Perry said Romney was practicing “vulture capitalism.”
Other Republicans want it to stop.
On his Senate campaign’s Facebook page, Steve Welch, a Chester County entrepreneur, put this out to his followers: “Do you find it appalling that Republican Presidential candidates are attacking capitalism?”
In a phone interview, Welch, using the same adjective, answered his own question. “I think it’s appalling when you see people attacking capitalism.”
But rather than delve into the politics of the Republican primary, he quickly turned the tables on President Barack Obama and the man he hopes to unseat, Democrat Bob Casey, saying they both “like jobs, but hate job creators.”
In his victory speech in New Hampshire, Romney described Obama as "a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.” When asked about that sentiment, Welch seemed to concur, saying, the president and Casey have “demonized” success.
Senate candidate Tim Burns, who started his own pharmaceuticals technology company, said the attacks on Romney have been unfair.
“He had successes, he’s had some failures, but the net of his experience has been way more successes than failures and if you look at his job creating, yes, he had to shut down some operations, but on the whole he created thousands and thousands of jobs,” Burns said.
In South Carolina, Romney offered the same defense for himself, acknowledging that through Bain investments there were some job losses, but that it was all for a greater good.
"The reality is in the private sector, that there are some businesses that are growing and thriving -- and we were fortunate enough to be able to be part of that in a small way -- and there's some businesses that have to be cut back in order to survive to try to make them stronger. Sometimes you're successful at that and sometimes you're not,” Romney said, according to an account in The Los Angeles Times.
Pitting business versus working people has long been a central tug-of-war between the two political parties. And with the 99 percent movement of the last year and continued high unemployment it will more than ever permeate the dialogue. Which is one reason why many Republicans are desperate for the intraparty attacks on Romney to stop.
In early December, President Obama gave a speech that outlined the income inequality theme that will shape his re-election campaign. “We simply cannot return to this brand of you're-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country,” he said.
Asked about the nation’s income inequality, Burns set up how distinctly different the parties’ views are.
“I believe in the wonderful principle here in America, you can be anything you want,” he said. “It’s all a matter of how hard you work and how much you want it.”
If either man becomes the Republican nominee, there are at least nine vying for the spot, their business backgrounds will certainly be scrutinized for any missteps.
For what it's worth, both men were asked if there were layoffs when they sold their companies. Neither were aware of any. Welch said his company started from zero and had 40 employees when it sold and the sale was intended to expand it. The Philadelphia Business Journal said he made more than a 250 percent return on his investment. Burns said his company of 400 expanded after he sold it, but he wasn't "aware of the particulars." However, in 2003, he was quoted in the Pittsburgh Business Times acknowledging the acquisition could lead to some layoffs.